Blues Pills are a blues rock band based in Sweden who have recently signed to Nuclear Blast after only being in existence for just over two years with a couple of singles and EP’s to their name. However, this isn’t blues rock as in the commercially-leaning party pop rock of Thunder – although it comes from the same place influence-wise – but rather a heavier, more psychedelic take that brings together the swagger of Led Zeppelin and the dark proto-doom of Blue Cheer by way of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, with a touch of the Delta blues to hold it all together. But what separates Blues Pills from the rest of the retro-rock hordes swinging their flares at the moment is that they have Elin Larsson, a singer with a wail that would make Janis Joplin tremble.
Of the four songs on this EP closing track ‘Dig In’ is the weakest, but only by the fact that the other three are cast-iron killers, which doesn’t make it a bad song but it is the least memorable. It’s a slow blues workout with a bass riff that could be ‘Whole Lotta Love’ if it were sped up a little bit, and whilst it doesn’t make the hairs on your neck stand up in the same way that the snaking rhythm of the Jefferson Airplane-esque ‘Time is Now’ does, it does build to a nice, jazzy climax. ‘The River’ also keeps the slow pace and the blues guitar to the front of the mix but with a catchy vocal melody that Elin Larsson keeps in check to make the song an obvious live singalong for the future.
But it’s the hypnotic blues/doom/stoner rock riff and powerful delivery of ‘Devil Man’ itself that marks this band out as more than just late-60’s revivalists. As Larsson belts out the opening lines before the music kicks in it’s obvious that she is the focal point of the band, her powerful voice opening up once it has a musical backing to reveal a grit and soulful aggression that falls somewhere between the aforementioned Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. It really is an astonishing performance of a song that perfectly captures the era which the band obviously worship.
They may wear their influences on their sleeve for all to hear but Blues Pills are a band that are clearly aiming higher than many of their contemporaries and now that they have the backing of Nuclear Blast then hopefully bigger and better things await. “Devil Man” is an excellent sampler for what this band can do and hopefully it won’t be too long before a full-length studio album comes along because, quite frankly, four songs really aren’t enough. Highly recommended.